1968-1979 (WB summary)

laver_wimbledon1968Rod Laver came back to Wimbledon ’68 after missing five years (because he had turned professional), and extended his winning streak to 31, capturing titles in the first two Open era editions, but he was already in his 30s and his time limited. He wasn’t eager to compete in the best of five matches anymore once he realized he was more prone to lose, and had not played at Wimbledon in years 1972-76 before he made his farewell tournament out there failing in the second round of 1977. Laver’s declining created chances for many players, but no-one could take a full advantage of it until the emergence of Bjorn Borg. The Swede made a lot of noise around himself entering Wimbledon for the first time in 1973 as a 17-year-old boy. It was a special year because plenty of players refused to participate in the tournament due to “the Pilic affair”. borg1978perryThe lack of stars caused that media’s attention was focused on the blond-haired teenager, who had already made his name a couple of weeks earlier reaching the last 16 in Paris. Borg’s first match at Wimbledon was sensational – he won 3rd set tie-break 20/18, and it’s been an unbeaten record for 40 years (at least when I write it)! However, Borg had to wait another three years for his first title, and he obtained it in fantastic style overcoming all opponents in straight sets. It gave birth to his long reigning at the All England & Cricket Club, he won 41 matches in a row which is a record so far considering all majors of the Open era. Fred Perry, whose record of three consecutive titles Borg overcame in 1979, one year earlier presented him with the trophy and picturesquely described Borg’s awesomeness: “Everything went Borg’s way today. If he had fallen out of a 45-story window in a New York skyscraper, he would have gone straight up.”  It’s really amazing that Borg was winning French Open year after year playing on the baseline, and two weeks later he was able to make a transformation into a serve-and-volley player ruling at Wimbledon (this double-style hegemony lasted almost four years until John McEnroe beat him in the 1981 final… by the way – McEnroe displayed his tremendous potential in 1977 advancing to the semifinals as a qualifier)… In the first round of 1969, 41-year-old Pancho Gonzales outlasted Charlie Pasarell after 5 hours, 12 minutes (the match contained 112 games) – there wasn’t a longer match at any Slam in the following 20 years, for a match with a bigger number of games we waited even longer – 31 years; both record cracked at Wimbledon.

Champions (1968-1979):
4 – Bjorn Borg (1976-79)
2 – Rod Laver (1968-69), John Newcombe (1970-71)
1 – Stan Smith (1972), Jan Kodes (1973), Jimmy Connors (1974), Arthur Ashe (1975)
Curiosities (1968-1979):
* Bjorn Borg won the tile in 1976 not dropping a set!
* the 1973 edition was deprived of 59 players who could participate in the first round of the main draw (13 of the 16 seeds), but boycotted the event in so-called “the Pilic affair”
* unseeded finalist: –
* longest match: 5 hours 12 minutes – P.Gonzales d. C.Passarell 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9 (1969)
* tie-breaks introduced in 1971
* in years 1971-78, tie-breaks were played at 8:8 not 6:6
* longest 5th set in terms of games:
T.Svensson d. J.Andrews 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 9-7, 18-16 [1975]
* longest set in terms of games before the tie-break introduction:
P.Gonzales d. C.Passarell 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9 [1969]
* youngest player to participate: Stephen Warboys, 16 years 7 months [1970]
* oldest player to participate: Robert Howe, 45 years 10 months [1971]